Burglary of a Conveyance

Burglary to a conveyance is pretty common in a tourist town like Orlando. Many burglaries occur when drivers are parking their cars for extended periods of time (airport parking lots, etc). This crime is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. In case you haven't figured it out yet, "conveyance" is defined under Florida Law as "any motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad car, trailer, aircraft, or sleeping car", noting that "to enter a conveyance includes taking apart any portion of the conveyance". Florida Statutes 810.011(3).

The most common burglary to a conveyance involves the breaking into a car to steal either a car radio, purse, or navigation unit. But the tough part about a conveyance burglary is the "entry" element is not always as clear as it is in burglary of a dwelling cases. Homes have windows and front doors, but, what about theft of hubcaps, for example? Does stealing hubcaps constitute a burglary? The short answer is no, that the removing of a portion of a conveyance only constitutes burglary if the removed portion facilitates the commission of an offense within the conveyance. Removing tires, rims, and hubcaps does not constitute a portion of a car that could facilitate the entry of the car. The gist of a burglary to a conveyance is the intent to commit a crime (usually theft) "within" the car. I should also note, with rising gas prices, that the act of siphoning gasoline from a car does not constitute burglary, even though it could be argued that a tube "enters" the vehicle in order to suck gas from the gas tank. However, attempts to remove parts from an engine compartment can support a burglary charge. Also, simply reaching into the bed of a pickup truck can, under the right circumstances, constitute burglary (even though this area is not enclosed, as required by the burglary statute, hum...).

Many burglary of a conveyance cases arise from a witness observing a broken car window. But, is a broken car window enough to prove burglary? Well, such a situation can be found in Gant v. State, 640 So.2d 1180 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994), in which Gant was convicted of burglarizing a vehicle parked in the Vero Beach airport parking lot. Gant confessed--generally--to burglarizing several cars in said parking lot, but the state only presented evidence at trial of one vehicle which had only a broken window, but nothing stolen out of it. The sole issue for the Gant court was "entry", and the state presented no proof that the defendant ever "entered" the vehicle. Without proof that the airspace in the car was broken by part of Gant's body or an instrument used to break the glass, there can be no inference that Gant intruded into the car. The court overturned Gant's conviction for burglary to a conveyance.

In another "entry" to a conveyance case, a juvenile by the name of "J.Y." was found guilty of burglary to a conveyance because bystander's observed him leaning into a vehicle. J.Y. v. State, 688 So.2d 1015 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1997). The conviction was overturned because "the state did not present any evidence that J.Y. had the intent to commit a crime in the vehicle." Id. Please note that intent can be easy to prove, depending upon one's "behavior". Florida law provides that "proof of the entering of such structure or conveyance at any time stealthily and without consent of the owner or occupant thereof is prima facie evidence of entering with intent to commit an offense." Section 810.07(1), Florida Statutes. [emphasis added].

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